(Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)




Facts about this animal

Reaching a length of up to 74 cm and a body-weight of up to 2.3 kgs, hellbenders are among the largest salamanders in the world. They have a flat body and head. A large, very keeled tail that helps to propel them through the water, and tiny eyes. Hellbenders have lungs and are capable of gulping air from the surface, but they tend to do all of their breathing through their skin. There are fleshy folds of skin along the sides of their body which help to take in oxygen from the water. The arms and legs are very large and muscular and they have 5 digits on their rear feet and 4 on the front feet. The colour ranges from dull brown or grey to bright orange or red. There are usually some darker spots or blotches on the upper side, but the belly is usually uniformly coloured.

Hellbenders usually breed in autumn, in August or September, but they may breed during winter in some Missouri streams. Nest sites are usually under large rocks where a male has excavated a cavity for the eggs. One or several females lay several hundred ping-pong ball sized eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs and guards the nest. The larvae hatch during winter. They have external gills, which they lose when they reach a total length of about 12 cm.

Hellbenders are completely aquatic, and only rarely have they been reported to come out of the water for any period of time.

Name (Scientific) Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
Name (English) Hellbender
Name (French) Ménopome
Name (German) Schlammteufel
Name (Spanish) Salamandra gigante de los Apalaches
Local names USA: Mudpuppy (note: this name is also used for the species Necturus maculosus, Allegheny Alligator, Devil Dog, Mollyhugger, Mud Cat, Snot-Otter, Grampus
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Brian Gratwicke



Range USA
Habitat Large streams and rivers with fast-flowing water and a rocky substrate
Wild population Probably > 10'000, but there is an overall tendency to decline
Zoo population 181 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 45 or 51 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex

Why do zoos keep this animal

Hellbender populations are decling in the wild, and the species has become locally extinct. Conservation is therefore the main motivation for zoos to keep the species. Zoos maintain an ex situ reserve population and make juveniles available for reintroduction projects. They also engage in ex situ and in situ conservation related research.

Being one of the largest amphibian species, hellbenders are also of interest for educational purposes.